More refugees are dying in desperate attempts to reach safety in Europe than ever before as political leaders turn their backs. At least 3,000 migrants have died in treacherous journeys across the Mediterranean Sea so far this year, drowning or being suffocated in the bottom of overcrowded smugglers’ boats. Rescue workers told The Independent the situation in the central Mediterranean is getting worse as the number of refugees shows no sign of slowing.
Dr Erna Rijnierse, a doctor on the MV Aquarius rescue ship run by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and SOS Méditerranée, said the humanitarian situation was becoming ever more horrific. Dr Rijnierse said she believes the situation is worsening in the Mediterranean as smugglers switch from larger wooden fishing vessels to small rubber boats. “They are meant to carry between 12 and 20 people but each one has more than 100 on board,” she added. “These boats are just not seaworthy, they are dangerously overcrowded and the people driving them have no idea what they are doing.” Like many aid workers, the Dutch doctor is frustrated at the continued refusal of EU states to provide safe and legal routes for refugees. “Everyone has an opinion on how to keep these people out of Europe but no one has an opinion on where they are coming from or why they are running away. These people have good reasons for coming, they are risking their lives.”
Valentina Bollenback, from Save the Children, said the number of unaccompanied children travelling on the dangerous route had doubled in the past year. “The situation isn’t getting any better, it’s probably worse, and the reception centres are completely full,” she added. “They go through hell and they’re not even safe when they get here.”
Dr Kim Clausen, the project coordinator on MSF's Bourbon Argos search and rescue boat, shares the anger. “It seems like a lot of people in the EU think everyone coming over is a terrorist and that we should leave them to die. I think we are living in a really shameful chapter for European history – we can’t even treat people like human beings.” He continued, “I wish I could take every one of these politicians out on a trip to see these people and hear their stories about how they have been raped and tortured and kept as slaves, and how they are fleeing everything around them. Building walls so you don’t see the suffering doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.”
The Office for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights warned on Friday that physical and legal barriers to migration were “no match” for human trafficking. Maria Grazia Giammarinaro said criminalising refugees made people fleeing conflict, persecution, and extreme poverty easy prey. “Some countries have adopted restrictive approaches, which exacerbated vulnerabilities of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers to human trafficking,” she added. “It is time to take action, and put in place policies based on shared responsibilities, aimed at ensuring survival, relocation and social inclusion of people fleeing conflict, and preventing trafficking and exploitation in the context of mixed migration flows of people.”
Let's reject the ridiculous claims that they are arriving to take advantage of our supposed "overly-generous" benefits system. They are fleeing our bullets and bombs.
People Not Borders